Over 50 per cent of South African women believe corporate jobs are “a safer option,”, with only 20 per cent of those who don’t own a business feeling they have the necessary network to support their family responsibilities.
This is according to new research conducted by Livingfacts and commissioned by Sage Foundation, entitled ‘The Hidden Factors: SA Women in Business’. Undertaken in partnership with the International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA), the research highlights the obstacles that women face in starting businesses.
Only 20 per cent of women in the survey, and 16 per cent of respondents who do not have their own business, agreed that having your own business was seen as a viable career choice when they were growing up.
Most women saw corporate jobs as a safer option, with more than half saying “it is definitely important to me to have financial security and a stable salary”. Nearly a quarter of women saw losing these benefits as a deterrent to starting their own businesses.
The research indicates that few women get exposure to entrepreneurial role models in their formative years, with only 15 per cent saying that they definitely had family and friends who often talked about business when they were young, and only 29 per cent who said that there definitely was a successful business owner in the family and extended family.
The lack of a role model carries through into women’s careers and later lives, too, with only 14 per cent of women reporting that they have a business mentor or role model.
“Young women need to be exposed to the possibilities and the benefits of having their own business at home, in their communities and schools, and in the media”, said Joanne van der Walt, the Sage Foundation programme manager for Africa.
Of those respondents who had quit corporate jobs to set up their own business, 59 per cent said a key reason for doing so was that they wanted flexibility around how they managed family and work commitments. However, 19 per cent who gave up their entrepreneurial ventures to return to the corporate world cited a need for flexibility as the reason they went back to full-time employment.
“Starting and running a business is far more time intensive than many women realise. Often, for women, a nine-to-five corporate job allows for more time with one’s family, and would-be entrepreneurs struggle to maintain balance between work and their personal lives – especially in the first few critical years of building a business,” said Van der Walt.
“Changing gender stereotypes of who does what in a family and women overcoming their own reluctance to ask for help are key changes that could encourage female entrepreneurship.”
Female entrepreneurs show more appetite for risk than women who have not gone into business. The research found that 26 per cent of women who did not have a business said they were not afraid to take risks, compared to 43 per cent who had their own business. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of those that never had a business thought it was scary to be in business for yourself.
Meanwhile, female entrepreneurs are finding access to capital and funding to be as much of an obstacle to starting their own businesses as their male counterparts in South Africa.
Most women started a business using their own savings to do so, with very few obtaining funding from traditional banks and even fewer raising venture capital, angel or seed funding, obtaining grants, or crowdsourcing.
Some 61 per cent of women who have never had a business cited not having access to money or capital to start their own business, as a barrier, while 33 per cent of those who went back to corporate jobs after starting a business said it was a key stumbling block.
“The emergence of a growing community of female entrepreneurs is one of the most significant economic and social developments in the world. It is not merely redefining women’s economic roles; it is reshaping the modern global economy,” said Van der Walt.
“Our research shows that this trend is also unfolding in South Africa – but it also highlights how much more we need to do to unleash the full potential of our country’s female entrepreneurs.”